There are times in a man’s life when he chooses to tell his spouse what she would like to hear, when a parent would tell a ward what he or she would like to hear, an interviewee, what the interviewer would like to hear and an ambitious politician what his would-be helper would like to hear.
Such half-truths are kinder lies designed to sustain a relationship, earn temporary approval and sometimes ensure followership. This is why ambitious politicians would say different things at different fora to different people, depending on what their audience’s immediate yearings are.
For a Presidential hopeful seeking votes of the Niger Delta, he must attempt to strike the chord by whipping up the sentiment, of the level of environmental degradation the area has suffered on account of years of oil production activities with their attendant pollution of the once arable farmlands, rich rivers and swamps.
He must raise their hopes on issues such as comprehensive environmental clean-up, review of the 13 per cent derivation system and promise to declare emergency in the Health and Education Sectors to make-up for the years of neglect, and lay a foundation for young ones.
Some would even promise that the Amnesty programme, pronounced by the Late Yar’Adua Presidency after resource control agitations following years of protest and ample threat to national earnings through oil and gas, would be sustained beyond 2015. Or even promise improved federal allocation to the Niger Delta Ministry, build factories to create jobs and above all give special attention to the welfare of the girl-child.
Such attention to the girl-child is indeed necessary because she was indeed one of the primary victims of oil prospection and production activities in the Niger Delta. When the oil companies arrived the oil bearing communities, they met total darkness, hunger, lack of pipe borne water, abject poverty and backwardness. At nights, the only light the locals saw was that on the house boats of the oil workers.
With their fat salaries, the oil workers lured the young girls out of schools into early prostitution and out of their homes. Some were put in the family way, leaving their parents with the false hope that their fluctuating fortunes would be addressed in a permanent manner.
But once the project of that set is completed, the oil workers would sneak out of the community as secretly as they came, after forcing the girl-child out of schools, and sometimes putting them in a family way.
In like manner, marriages were broken, community conflicts invented to divide and rule the people and most importantly, had disrupted, the people’s main occupations and sources of livelihood, fishing and farming.
On near frequent basis, wastes from their production are discharged into the rivers, lands and swamps thus endangering sea foods, arable lands and indeed fishes in the river, not to talk of gas flaring which became a major health concern for the people.
In spite of all these, for more than fifty years after Nigeria discovered oil in large quantity in Oloibiri, today’s Bayelsa State, the people did not benefit directly from activities of oil companies. Often guided by very well-armed security men, the oil companies’ loyalty was to the Federal Government and their owners with little or no consideration for the oil bearing host communities.
Without relevant skills, thus unemployable, the youth who had thus been denied sources of livelihood became agitated and vented their anger first on their political leaders. It was such internal strife that culminated in the demand for a derivation policy, by the people’s representatives.
Men like Chief Melford Okilo and Ken Sarowiwa, among many others were unrelenting in their protest against environmental hazards, health risks and indeed endemic poverty which oil-bearing communities suffered.
Under the Second Republic, followed by successive Military regimes, the derivation which was eventually granted fluctuated, sometimes meaninglessly, the lowest being 1.5 per cent under General Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State, before rising to the 13 per cent enjoyed today. This is in spite of the fact that in the days of the groundnut pyramids, cocoa, palm oil among others, the then three major zones of North, South-West and South-East enjoyed derivation benefits of between 50 per cent and 100 per cent.
In the last National Conference, convoked by the Jonathan Presidency, conferees agreed on an upward review of the derivation formula in view of the years of denial, environment degration, remediation needs, investments in education and, health care and above all, empower the youth.
That conference report is yet to see the light of day and there are no signs that it will, since the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had boycotted it after many of its members had clamoured for such conference for many years. Even so, notable Nigerians have continued to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the Conference report, because in their view, it held the answer to the long-desired peaceful co-existence, devolution of power, economic growth, socio-political integration and indeed national cohesion, unity and progress.
Most of these were what then APC candidate Buhari promised with extra attention to security, war on corruption and economic prosperity. The Director-General of the Buhari campaign was the then Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who also defended his opposition to a Jonathan Presidency, on grounds that his state and indeed the states of the oil producing Niger Delta were worse for it.
Another key grouse of the Governor against President Jonathan’s re-election was his claim that oil-wells belonging to Rivers State were annexed to Bayelsa, and thus denied his state derivation rewards that would have been enjoyed.
Amaechi repeatedly defended the interest of the Niger Delta and relentlessly agitated for an upward review of the derivation system to help in re-building the thoroughly destroyed occupations and environment of the people.
But when former Governor Amaechi appeared before the Senate, for a confirmation hearing for a ministerial position, his reaction to one of the questions posed to him should have shocked many, considering his antecedents and advocacy for improved derivation , while as governor.
Amaechi was asked: When you were governor, you and your Niger Delta colleagues repeatedly clamoured for more federal allocation, but each time we asked you to account for it, it’s trouble. You enjoy derivation, you have Niger Delta Ministry.
Now, you are going to be a federal minister, if you are confirmed, would you still clamour for more derivation for the oil bearing states, considering that some states get far less?
Astonishingly, Amaechi said, “that was before we went to Germany. Now my disposition has changed.” According to the former governor, the state of Germany does not have the kind of mineral resources Nigeria has but the people are doing well. So no need for extra attention to oil bearing states.
According to him, “After the grants to states by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, any states with less than N5 billion, should be bailed out by other states with higher grants. That’s the right thing to do.”
What Amaechi’s view amounted to was that many Northern states depend solely on monthly federal allocations without extra efforts towards improving their internally generated revenue and since oil bearing states enjoy marginal reward from the paltry 13 per cent derivation, they should contribute part to states that earn less than 5 billion naira. I hope Amaechi did not mean it.
Hope he was merely telling the Northern Senator, what he wanted to hear in answer to that question. Hope Amaechi did not mean it, otherwise it would be suicidal for oil bearing states in the South-South and South-East, where, unfortunately President Buhari scored the least number of votes in the last Presidential elections.
There are also speculations that, if finally sworn-in as Minister of the Federal Republic by President Buhari, Amaechi might be assigned the Niger Delta Ministry, meaning, the development of the area would be entrusted to him.
Would he run his Ministry with funds deducted from the Niger Delta states to his ministry or agitate for improved funding independently?
That is why I hope that Amaechi might have just told that Senator, what he and some of his Northern colleagues would like to hear. If so, Amaechi need to reassure his constituency that he is not one to sacrifice everything, including the welfare of his people, to sustain personal ambition.
From his nomination as Minster to his screening up to his eventual clearance, the amount of controversy generated by Amaechi’s choice was most divisive rather than uniting. That is why Amaechi must take deliberate steps to heal wounds and unite the peoples, if he hopes to succeed as a minster.
Most importantly, he must discard his new view, after the trip to Germany, and champion the course of the oil bearing states in their struggle for a better welfare for their people. Anything else will be most unpopular, ungratifying and utterly selfish.
My agony is: those whose personal ambition transcend their states, often adopt the policy: “Charity begins abroad.” And with such mindset, can lavish billions on foreigners and their needs, not minding whether or not workers and pensioners are owed three months and five months respectively. Let this not be our plight.
That is why I hope and pray that Amaechi didn’t mean what he said.
Rivers’ll Ensure Safe, Secure Environment For Economic Growth -Wike .
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that his administration would continue to support security agencies in the state to ensure a safe and secure environment for the economic prosperity of citizens.
He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Operation Sting and the revitalised C4i security outfits were set up to help provide security to stimulate growth and prosperity of all in Rivers State.
The governor spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the 2021 Conference/Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Rivers State chapter, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
“This administration has embarked on aggressive infrastructural development and a very deliberate urban renewal efforts around the capital to attract local and foreign investors to stimulate our economy.
“We have also opened up local governments through quality road networks. Upgrade of various social and recreational facilities in various local government areas,” he said.
He commended the state chapter of the NIPR for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Nigeria’s Security Situation: A Factor in Reputation and National Development”, adding that stakeholders must begin to act in a very different, drastic and positive strategy to remedy the already battered reputation of Nigeria.
He urged the NIPR to use its expertise and experience to thrive to galvanise and stimulate the populace and government at various levels for the resuscitation of citizens sense of pride and responsibility of whatever was left of the nation’s image and reputation.
“All hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers to call on government at all levels to begin to act in ways and manner that will help to revive the battered image of this country,” he added.
Welcoming guests and participants to the conference, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is also the state chairman of NIPR, commended the cordial relationship existing between the institute and the state government under the leadership of Governor Wike who is a honorary fellow of the institute.
“Governor Wike has been very supportive of all the activities of the Institute. That is what you also get from a visionary leader who has changed the landscape of Rivers State with infrastructure, with various developmental projects that touch the lives of the ordinary man,” he said.
Nsirim said the state chapter of NIPR was proud to associate with Governor Wike for the giant strides he has recorded and would continue to record until the end of his tenure in 2023.
“As a chapter that is responsive to the development of Nigeria, we have chosen the theme for this year’s conference as our own way of contributing to the national discourse,” he said.
He said the conference would produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse and urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation.
“It is expected that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security and national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” he said.
In his speech, the President and Chairman of Governing Council of NIPR, Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, emphasised on the need for all Nigerians to collaborate to fight insecurity currently confronting the country’s economic and political stability.
He welcomed the theme of the conference, saying that it was coming at the time the institute had gotten sufficient worry about national security, peace and economic development.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ike Neliaku, chronicled the increasing violent crimes that had claimed thousands of lives in the various parts of Nigeria, and submitted that the rising insecurity situation in the country had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation.
He said the worrisome development would have concomitant consequence on individual and national development.
Chairman of the conference, Chief Felix Otuwarikpo, said the conference was put together to dissect the current carnage affecting the Nigerian nation.
“As an institute, we will leverage on the conference to proffer solutions to the security challenges affecting the nation,” he said.
The conference also featured the presentation of awards for good public relations and community development to some distinguished members and organisations.
Church Of Nigeria Honours Wike, Sanwo-Olu, Akeredolu, Others
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has bestowed awards for exemplary leadership qualities in a challenging economy and dedication in the service of God and humanity on the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun.
Also honoured is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Abayomi, with an award for quality and equitable healthcare delivery.
The awardees were honoured at the standing committee meeting of the Church of Nigeria, at the Diocese of Lagos, Archbishop Adebola and Oluranti Ademowo Resource Centre, Faith Plaza, Bariga, Lagos State.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who conferred the awards on the recipients, said the political leaders were considered for the award for their outstanding role, courageous leadership, and standing firm in defense of Nigerians against insecurity, provision of basic infrastructure to the citizenry and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the congregation on the state of the nation and the role of the church, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, admonished the leadership of the church to encourage its members to be part of the governance process in the country.
The governor noted that a situation whereby Christians leave governance for politicians alone is no longer obtainable.
According to Wike, the effect of bad leadership will also affect the church if they remain passive to the issue of governance.
“You must be part of choosing leadership. Don’t say you have no role, you have a role. When you don’t participate, bad leaders will emerge and when bad leadership emerges, you are part of it.
“You must encourage your people to be part of leadership. I didn’t go to any school to study leadership.
“So, nobody should say that as a Christian you cannot be a governor, no. The head of SUBEB in my state is a priest and you can see the leadership he has given to that agency today. You will feel proud about it. That used to be the most corrupt agency, but today it is headed by a priest and you can see the difference.”
Wike decried the inherent injustice that has characterised the Nigerian State, and urged the church to speak against socio-political issues adversely affecting the progress of the country.
“We say we are all one Nigeria. We went to World Bank to borrow money to do specific projects. One of the states that make up Nigeria I hear is Rivers State. And I also know in paying this money back to World Bank, money that comes from the resources of my state will be used in paying back this money. But my state was denied to have projects from that loan.”
The Rivers State governor said a situation where states depend on the Federal Government to survive can no longer be tenable, and insisted that states must be allowed to collect revenues such as Value Added Tax (VAT) to enable them improve the welfare of their people.
“You have gone to take loan and I am one of those states that will pay back those loan and you deny me to benefit from the projects that that money will be used for. I have no problem with that.
“Allow me the one (VAT) the Constitution says I am entitled to, let me collect that one and develop my state.”
He regretted that some governors in Nigeria have refused to think out of the box on how to boost economic activities in their states.
“There is flood in my state, it requires N200millon, I will go to Abuja to beg. Even as a governor, I will knee down before a DG of an agency of government. You will knee down for a director just because of N300million. That is the status of some of the governors of some states.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended the church for its support, and announced the waiver of N2billion for land acquired by the Church of Nigeria in Lagos State.
The governor stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world are going through difficult times amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and used the occasion to canvass for mass vaccination of the citizens.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, while speaking on the theme of the conference: “Abiding in Christ: God’s Panacea in an Unstable World”, lamented that Nigeria was fast becoming a land flowing with tears and blood because of the impact of terror, banditry, herdsman attacks on communities and kidnapping.
He said a situation in which communities that are predominantly Christians are targeted one after another in some parts of Kaduna State and North-Central of Nigeria was unacceptable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the bandits and herders attackers as terrorists and let them be treated as such.”
The Primate urged Nigerians to avail themselves the opportunity 2023 general election offer to exercise their right to choose new leaders.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently address the free fall in the value of the country’s currency because of the attendant impact on the store of value and confidence of investors.
Rivers Begins Process To Check Flooding
The Rivers State Government has said that it was working with relevant agencies to roll out the process that would check perennial flooding in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Nsirim, therefore, called on those living and doing business in the state to play their part in line with the programme that would be executed by government to address the problem of flooding.
He frowned at the situation where residents of Port Harcourt had turned the drainage systems into refuse bins, and warned that “that is not what it should be.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal programme.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to co-operate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He noted that the state government could not do it alone as it required the support of corporate organisations, civil society groups, religious organisations and the media to enlighten their publics on the need to behave as responsible citizens.
He called on the media to embark on massive enlightenment programmes along the line of the roles of citizens in checking flooding in the state.
“We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, as government is out to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the state does so in a healthy environment, we believe that in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this (flooding),” he said.
Nsirim also announced the names of entrants selected for the essay competition on the title, “Our State Our Responsibility” introduced under the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the ministry launched at the beginning of this month.
He said those shortlisted were expected to be at the conference room of the ministry by 11am on Monday, September 27, 2021, for a physical test to ascertain their original ownership.
Those shortlisted are: Jessica Hart, Samuel William, Amarachi Chimezie, Jasper Dorcas, Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, Sophia Oyibo, Blessing Pepple, Anyiam kelechukwu, Deborah Adegbami, Gift Samuel, Okiche Golden, Okiche Miracle, Orovwigwo Deborah, Otuka Goodluck and Ziga Paago.
By: Beemene Taneh
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